The proliferation of media means that bands can't merely be bands anymore. Everyone needs some sort of a gimmick, whether it be sound or image. Four or five guys wearing jeans and playing instruments won't capture anyone's attention, not with the cornucopia of options the consumer has at their disposal. Perhaps this helps explain the decline in relevancy rock music has encountered in recent years. When pop stars have movies, tv shows, and assorted tie-in products, and even metal bands have mythologies and tightly constructed genres to make sure they can reach every fan who may possibly be interested, old-fashioned rock music has little to offer. There isn't any pageantry, there isn't any facade of danger that can push the music beyond its own means.
Candlelight Red falls into that box, a rock band in an age where rock is about as interesting as its namesake. Like a stone, no matter how hard something rocks these days, it still tends to come across more useful as a paperweight. Around the world, there are thousands of bands that can play this kind of music with equal skill. Whether or not there's any room on the landscape for more comes down to whether or not they possess the most elusive of skills; songwriting.
“Demons” is four tracks of middle-of-the-road rock music that doesn't offer anything in the way of a surprise. The title track is filled with the down-tuned chugging riffs you would expect, with a similarly plaintive vocal. It's all well done, but remains stuck in first gear. The guitar work is standard fare, the sort of rhythmic exercise that is a backdrop, not a song in and of itself. The vocal could save the song, but can't scale the summit. There's a flash in the pre-chorus where the song begins to ascend, but the chorus can't build on the momentum. Instead of growing and turning into a melodic monster, the song settled back into its groove, rendering the journey flaccid.
The old loud-soft-loud formula is used in “Cutter”, a better effort than the opener. The riff is slightly more jagged, and by extension, more of an actual riff. The melodic verses set up the chorus, which while sung with restraint, is pleasantly melodic. It doesn't manage the level of sticky success the band was hoping for, but it's a quality song that could easily find a place on a very good record. “Lifeless” follows a similar trajectory, with ballad-like verses and a rousing chorus. It doesn't fare quite as well as the previous song, but is once again a fine enough piece of music.
“Sleeping Awake” finishes things off with a bit of diversity, using acoustic guitars instead of merely turning down the gain on their amps. They give the song a bit more dimension, and let the sonics breathe a bit. Fatigue shouldn't set in on an EP, but it does, as is all too common. Trying to be melancholy, the song eschews big melodies, struggling to find any at all. It's identity is to be the mostly acoustic song, and that's about it.
It's a bit puzzling that a rock band would introduce themselves to the world with an EP that contains so much slower, softer material. After listening to “Demons”, if anyone asked me if Candlelight Red rocks, I'd struggle to say yes. There's clearly talent in the band, but the songs go nowhere, and they don't sound any different than any other band playing the same stuff. Without a gimmick to remember them by, I'm afraid Candlelight Red is going to find their wick burning out in short order.